Hundreds of migrant labourers are illegally returning to Madhya Pradesh from Gujarat on trucks, giving a go-by to all the rules meant to check the spread of coronavirus. The men, who do not undergo any screening for coronavirus or carry a valid government pass, live on the trucks for days. With around 60 piled onto a single truck, there is no question of maintaining social distancing.
The matter was detected on Monday as one of these trucks was intercepted near Sohawal chowkie in Satna by the police.
According to the central guidelines, migrants who have been stranded due to the lockdown have to be screened for coronavirus by the state governments. Only in absence of any symptoms will they be given clearance to board the trains that are being run by the centre to ferry them to their home states.
"Approximately 10 to 12 such trucks came to the state over the last six or seven days," sources said. Each of them carries an average of 60 passengers, who are given fake passes.
Each truck is charging between 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh per trip, the police said. According to the migrant labourers, who were on the way back from Surat, each passenger on the truck had to shell out Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000.
Surat, the Gujarat city known for its diamond processing and textile industry, has seen repeated protests by migrant labourers over the past weeks. Demanding that they be sent back to their home states, the labourers have often clashed with the police.
The drivers of these trucks don't know who has ordered these people to be sent on the trucks. "All we got from the transporters was the list of passengers. I have brought 51 passengers to Satna from Surat," said Alamgeer, who was driving the intercepted truck.
A case has been registered against the driver and the labourers have been sent to quarantine centers, the police said.
"Migrant labourers from our districts have returned in two phases," said Satna district collector Ajay Katesaria.
Around 16,000 to 17,000 people returned before the lockdown started and the second lot is returning now from various states, including Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat, he said.
"But the migrants returning in trucks and mini-trucks are posing a problem for us, particularly as each truck contains 60-70 migrants and their kin, in flagrant violation of social distancing norms," he said.
Another problem, he said, were the fake passes.
"The passes have been issued from SDM Office, but each pass bears a different signature. Also, there is no distinctive serial number on any of these passes and no e-record. We believe these passes have not been issued by any government office in Surat, but are the handiwork of some organized racket," he added.